A La Carte Airlines
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A La Carte Airlines

In June 2005, Airlines.Ws wondered how far domestic airline cost cutting measures would go after the loss of the coveted free pretzels on Northwest airline flights. Well, now we’re here to say far, quite far, indeed.

The latest à la carte menu reads like this: $15 for an aisle seat or $24 for an exit row. More leg room for $50 or purchase your ticket over the phone for $10. Confirm a standby flight for $25. $1 for trail mix or cashews, $4 for a snack box or $5 for a ‘fresh’ sandwich or wrap. $2 per bag for curbside check-in.

There are no longer free magazines, newspapers, pillows or blankets. American Airlines estimates saving $700,000 on the cost of pillows alone. Continental Airlines is the only remaining airline to offer complimentary in-flight meals on both domestic and international flights. It seems as though airlines are asking more of their passengers with less being offered. Book your flights on-line, check yourself in at a kiosk and produce your own boarding passes – didn’t these services used to be included? Well, yes, but you did pay overall – remember the much higher airfares? Would you rather pay those or go with $49 one-way coast-to-coast fares?

Airlines are simply being reactive to their $35 billion losses since 9/11. Now with higher fuel costs and tough competition, as with any business, if they’re making money they’re able to give more services to passengers. But if they’re hurting financially, cost cutting measures need to be taken.
But low-cost no-frills has been around for years with Southwest – does their business model work because this was their initial concept? It seems the public now thinks they’re being nickel and dime’d because they’re asked to pay for services which they do not expect on airlines such as Southwest, Ted or Canada’s WestJet. Does this make passengers feel they’re losing value for their money? Maybe so but Southwest is the fourth largest and some say the most successful airline in the USA today.

Many passengers love the new à la carte services because of the low cost flights being produced. How can anyone rightfully complain when they’re getting a coast-to-coast flight with Southwest for only $49 one-way? Even a Greyhound bus trip costs more than twice that and it’s 2 days, 16 hours more of travel time.

So, plan ahead. Bring your own food, your own mp3 player, your own magazine, your own blanket and pillow, heck, just add a family photo on the seat back table tray and it’ll be like home sweet home at 35,000 feet. Focus on the outcome of the trip (getting where you want to be) and enjoy the overall cost savings. Remember, you could be on a bus.


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